Penn State was looking for a big name to replace Bill O'Brien, and it managed to land one of the most sought-after head coaching candidates in America.
Updates from Friday, Jan. 24
In addition to giving new coach James Franklin one of college football's most lucrative contracts, Penn State agreed to pay $1.5 million that Franklin owed Vanderbilt for early termination of his deal there, Penn State disclosed Friday night.
Updates from Saturday, Jan. 11:
The Nittany Lions announced Franklin on Saturday as their head coach:
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Pennsylvania State University has selected James Franklin, a Pennsylvania native who is one of the nation's most successful and dynamic coaches, as the 16th head football coach in its storied 127-year history.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson and Director of Athletics Dave Joyner announced Franklin's appointment today. The enthusiastic and passionate Franklin led Vanderbilt University to unprecedented success in his three years as head coach, winning nine games in each of the past two years, and finishing in the Top 25 in consecutive seasons, both for the first time in school history.
Franklin will be introduced on the Penn State campus today at 4:15 p.m. Franklin succeeds Bill O'Brien, who was named head coach of the National Football League's Houston Texans earlier this month.
Tony Moncuso of GoPSUSports.com provided this picture of Franklin inside Beaver Stadium:
Coach Franklin inside Beaver Stadium for the first time. pic.twitter.com/ItSuI7wi5x— Tony Mancuso (@GoPSUTony) January 11, 2014
Franklin gave a comment to ESPN's Josh Moyer:
Franklin: "I've worked my way through every division of football and no other school boasts a fan base like we do. We Are...Penn State!!"— Josh Moyer (@ESPNJoshMoyer) January 11, 2014
ESPN's Brett McMurphy later reported on the length of Franklin's contract:
Franklin received a six-year deal worth $27 million, a source told ESPN's Brett McMurphy. Franklin's $4.5 million annual salary is second in the Big Ten only to Ohio State's Urban Meyer.
Penn State would later release official numbers via CSTV.com. His salary increases every year through 2019. His buyout money gets significantly smaller each year, going from $5 million in 2014 to just $1 million in 2019.
GoPSUSports Tweeted this quote from Franklin, who talks about his Pennsylvania roots:
Coach is looking forward to coming home. "I'm a Pennsylvania boy with a #PennState heart." -James Franklin— Penn State Athletics (@GoPSUsports1) January 11, 2014
ESPN Big Ten details some of Franklin's goals for the program and reveals his plans as they pertain to PSU's coaching staff:
Franklin: I think I'm the right guy to come back and unite this state and bring this program back to where I think it should be.— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) January 11, 2014
Franklin: "107,000 every single game from here on out. That stadium will be sold out from here on out."— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) January 11, 2014
Franklin says he is "fiercely loyal" to assistants he's worked with in the past. Says will sit down with remaining PSU assistants.— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) January 11, 2014
CBS' Bruce Feldman provides Franklin's recruiting plans:
New #PennState coach James Franklin: "Our recruiting philosophy is we're gonna DOMINATE the state and we're gonna DOMINATE the region."— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 11, 2014
Penn Live's Greg Pickel reports that Franklin is already active on the recruiting front:
I can confirm that TE Chance Sorrell and DE Lloyd Tubman have flipped their verbal commitments from Vanderbilt to #PennState.— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) January 12, 2014
---End of Update---
Updates From Friday, Jan. 10:
Penn State's official Twitter feed reports a major announcement to come on Saturday:
Brett McMurphy of ESPN reports details of the deal:
James Franklin expected to receive contract worth up to $4.5M/year at Penn State, source told @ESPN. Bill O'Brien made $3.82M— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 10, 2014
Jeff Lockridge of The Tennessean says there is a team meeting that will take place on Sunday:
Penn State player Brad Bars tells me there is a PSU team meeting slated for Sunday. Says he's not sure exactly what team will be told— Jeff Lockridge (@jefflockridge) January 11, 2014
ESPN's Josina Anderson reports that Vanderbilt has a forthcoming meeting of their own taking place:
Source: Vanderbilt football has called a team meeting for early saturday morning.— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) January 11, 2014
---End of Update---
According to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, former Vanderbilt leader James Franklin, following the Commodores' second straight nine-win season and bowl victory, is expected to agree to terms with the Nittany Lions:
Feldman's report was confirmed by ESPN's Brett McMurphy:
McMurphy later said the deal will be finalized on Saturday:
James Franklin's Penn State contract will be finalized/approved Saturday by PSU committee, source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 10, 2014
Despite reports linking Franklin to the job, Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams told Andrew Stockey of WTAE TV in Pittsburgh that he hasn't been informed of a change:
#Vanderbilt AD says James Franklin is still the Commodores' coach and has informed him he has not accepted another job offer.— Andrew Stockey (@astockeyWTAE) January 9, 2014
Mark Dent of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says Williams believes Franklin will be coaching at Vanderbilt for the opener:
Vandy AD David Williams says on 104.5 in Nashville he anticipates Franklin to be on the sidelines for Vandy season opener against Temple— Mark Dent (@mdent05) January 9, 2014
Audrey Snyder of The Patriot-News provides more details from Williams:
Vandy AD on another station when asked about a timetable: "I think whatever James decides to do he certainly doesn't want to hurt anybody."— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) January 9, 2014
Has James Franklin made any demands to Vandy AD? "No, they're not true. He has not made any demands. Those reports are not true."— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) January 9, 2014
Franklin, who is 41 years old and a Pennsylvania native, resurrected the Vanderbilt program. Taking over for a school that went 4-20 in the two years preceding his hire, he led the Commodores to an impressive 24-15 record and three bowl appearances in three seasons.
In a conference like the SEC, which is widely regarded as the most difficult in the nation, and in his first stint as a head coach, Franklin did a marvelous job with less talent, and it wasn't surprising that he drew such heavy interest.
JC Shurburtt of 247Sports mentioned that those qualities make him a perfect hire for Penn State:
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, one official from the Houston Texans called Franklin, whose name also came up for open NFL jobs, as a "star on the rise":
One Texans official called Vanderbilt HC James Franklin a “star on the rise”, which is why Redskins and Browns want chance to interview him.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 4, 2014
But the Nittany Lions were lucky enough to land him, and he has some big shoes to fill.
O'Brien took the job at Penn State when no one else wanted to, leading the Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record over the past two seasons. In 2012, he won the Big Ten Coach of the Year award and Bear Bryant Award for national coach of the year.
Good hire by Penn State?
Still, as difficult as it may be to live up to O'Brien's job, Franklin has at least two seasons to build around stud quarterback Christian Hackenberg. He also gets some solid players back on the defensive side of the ball and will have 80 scholarships to work with in 2015.
There is always some type of fallout when colleges switch head coaches (4-star quarterback commit Michael O'Connor has already opened up his recruitment), but the young and full-of-energy Franklin should have little trouble selling kids on the program.
Even if he does hit some bumps along the way, he has proven the ability to win at one of the highest levels in college football, continually racking up victories despite Vanderbilt typically landing near the bottom of the SEC in recruiting rankings.
Only time will tell for sure, but this looks like a positive move for all parties involved.